Chilblain in later stages on tip of 2nd and 3rd toes

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This is a skin problem caused by an extremity becoming frozen, then thawed out incorrectly.

It affects children and the elderly more commonly than anyone else, often with the tendency running in families. It usually goes through three stages, the duration of each varies considerably.

1. The part is white and numb due to being exposed to cold and inactivity.

2. The area becomes red, tender, hot, and swollen, often in patches.

3. The skin is dry and peeling, sometimes warm but blue.

During any stage the part is very delicate and often intensely itching. If scratched or damaged the skin may break open allowing an entry for infection.


a) Prevention is the best approach. If you know you are prone to chilblains; early autumn (September-October) ask you Doctor if you are able to take a course of tablets to prevent chilblains before the cold weather arrives.

b) If you are going out in the cold; wrap up warm all over, wear thick roomy shoes or proper hiking boots (yes this is worth it) and thick socks (tights and thermal socks are excellent), gloves on your hands, AND A HAT (25-33% of body heat is lost through your head). Also keep moving.

c) When you get cold; do something active to get your blood circulating before going into a warm room. Perform vigorous exercise to thaw out before taking a hot bath.

d) Gently massage affected parts with a proprietary chilblain ointment (i.e. Blamosa) regularly and avoid the part getting squeezed or scuffed by tight or sloppy footwear. Protect the area with a lint bandage and cotton wool.

e) If the chilblain breaks it may not necessarily bleed but treat it as though it is an open wound. Clean the part, apply a mild antiseptic (i.e. Savlon ointment) and bandage the part with sterile gauze, then seek professional medical attention.

The condition is a form of frost bite, and great care must be taken to prevent further damage. The easiest way to cause a chilblain, is stand at a bus queue for a while in winter, then sit with your feet in front of the bus heater.

Warm the middle of your body up before your hands and feet to allow the blood inside you to thaw them out rather than an external source like a hot bath or a fire.

N.B. Not all skin anomalies are chilblains. If you have any problems with your feet, always ensure that you see a Chiropodist

Produced by: Jonathan D. Lees D.Pod.M., M.C.Pod.
Stourbridge (01384) 390000
Surgery Address: 37 High Street, Amblecote, Stourbridge, West Midlands DY8 4DG

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This page last edited 18.08.2020© Copyright J. Lees